Austin’s Best Takeout for Those Who Are Tired of Cooking
Tribeza’s Food Critic discovers new ways to dine in Austin while still (mostly) staying home
By Karen O. Spezia
Raise your hand if you miss dining out? Me, too. But just because we’re locked up doesn’t mean we’re locked out. I’ve uncovered lots of tasty ways to explore Austin’s culinary scene from the safety and comfort of home.
My discoveries were born out of necessity. After months of quarantine, I’d developed a serious case of cooking fatigue. I grew weary of my own food—and even my husband’s normally enticing Italian delicacies. The thrill was gone from restaurant takeout. I was bored, uninspired and in a serious food funk. I needed to shake things up.
I began by enrolling in some virtual culinary classes. If I couldn’t visit my local haunts, I’d bring them home via the magic of Zoom. Antonelli’s Cheese Shop hosted an exuberant “Cheese & Rosé Wine” tasting, led by one of the shop’s knowledgeable cheesemongers and featuring the charming husband-wife duo behind Texas winery C.L. Butaud. On the day of class, I picked up my preordered cheese tray and bottles of Butaud rosé from Antonelli’s curbside. The Hyde Park cheese shop was already on my radar, but C.L. Butaud’s 100 percent Texas wines were new to me—and they were delicious. My Zoom classmates agreed, many of whom were repeat students of Antonelli’s frequent virtual events.
Next, I satisfied my sweet tooth with Delysia Chocolatier. Although the Austin-based confectionery has been around for over a decade, I’d never sampled its elegant, award-winning truffles. Making up for lost time (and because you can never have too much chocolate), I registered for two Zoom classes: the Italian-themed “Taste of Tuscany” and the holiday-inspired “Mid-Year Cheer.” Chocolates for each class were shipped to my door, wrapped like edible jewels in beautiful gift boxes. The intimate, interactive tastings were hosted by chef-owner Nicole Patel, who offers a variety of clever rotating weekly themes.
Still on a sugar high, I decided to try curbside takeout from one of my favorite gelato shops, Dolce Neve. Because I was mixing things up, I eschewed my usual Pistachio and instead selected a pint of Chocolate With Candied Orange Peels and Fromage Blanc With Black Cherry. While perusing its website, I discovered that Dolce Neve now produces its own chocolate hazelnut spread, so I added a jar to my virtual basket. It was a game-changer: creamy, rich and loaded with whipped organic hazelnuts, leaving pedestrian Nutella in the dust.
My quest for new experiences continued with Lenoir, one of my favorite local restaurants but not one I’d equated with takeout. Their curbside Sunday Supper sounded too good to pass up: fried chicken, creamy mashed-potato salad, spicy slaw and chewy matcha sugar cookies. Naturally, everything was flawless, and even this familiar comfort-food feast came with a few surprises, like a small ramekin of raw wildflower Youngblood Honey from fifth-generation beekeepers in South Texas. When I set out to procure some for myself, I discovered Farmhouse Delivery, a virtual grocer that conveys carefully curated produce, meats and products right to your doorstep.
After all the wine, cheese, candy, ice cream and fried chicken, some home-cooked local veggies were in order. I was ready to return to my kitchen, but not yet comfortable hitting the farmers market, so I ordered a produce box from Urban Roots. I made the short drive out to the East Austin farm to fetch my curbside crate, which overflowed with garden-fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, beets, eggplants, squash and tender herbs. Better yet, the contents had been grown and harvested by the dedicated young people who benefit from working on this nonprofit farm. Also tucked inside my box were tasty samples from local restaurants and food vendors, like mini-bottles of olive oil from Con’ Olio, amazing sourdough bread and scrumptious cookies from ThoroughBread, a squeeze bottle of pasture-raised ghee from Vital Farms, plus curry paste and coconut milk from Thai Fresh.
As I continue to branch out and try new things, I feel myself slowly emerging from a culinary hibernation, my appetite reawakened and my gastronomic curiosity reignited. Virtual classes have provided a much-needed sense of camaraderie, which I miss from dining out, and my takeout experiments led to unexpected new discoveries. Austin’s culinary landscape may not look “normal” again for a long time—if ever—but as the food scene adapts and pivots, it continues to surprise and delight me with its creativity and passion.